NEW YORK (Reuters) — U.S. private employers added 189,000 jobs last month, below economists' expectations and the lowest since Jan. 2014, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.
Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 225,000 jobs.
February's private payrolls were revised up to an increase of 214,000 from the previously reported 212,000. The manufacturing sector in March showed a decrease of 1,000 jobs, marking the first decrease since Jan. 2014.
The report is jointly developed with Moody's Analytics.
The ADP figures come ahead of the U.S. Labor Department's more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report on Friday, which includes both public and private-sector employment.
Economists polled by Reuters are looking for total U.S. employment to have grown by 245,000 jobs in March, down from 295,000 in February. The unemployment rate is expected to have remained at 5.5 percent.
"Soft number, probably auguring somewhat slower job growth going forward," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, on the March ADP figure.
Zandi said the decline in oil prices was the most important negative influence on jobs growth, followed by the surge in the U.S. dollar and severe winter weather. He said he expected Friday's non-farm payrolls figure to show a 200,000 gain in jobs.
"There are some good reasons to think that the job growth has slowed, that we're not going to see monthly job gains of 300K for a while," he said.
Economists often refer to the ADP report to fine-tune their expectations for the payrolls numbers, though it is not always accurate in predicting the outcome.